“I wanted them to feel at home the minute they walked through the door,” says Illinois designer Cindy Bardes Galvin of the mountain retreat she envisioned for a Southern California family. The Vail residence is one of five condos in the same building that Galvin designed for her client during a two-year period. “She placed each of her five grown children in a unit based on their needs,” explains Galvin. “These units are their home base for family gatherings and holidays.”
As the client spearheaded an extensive remodel and expansion of the existing building shell—work carried out by architect Bill Pierce of Pierce Architects and builder GE Johnson—they were afforded the freedom to reimagine their family’s units. They called on architect Kyle Webb to do so. “This particular unit straddles the old and new sections of the building,” says Webb. “In the older section we worked with the existing framing, but in the new section we were able to move windows, remove columns and raise the ceilings. Everything was integrated as seamlessly as possible.” The interior finishes of the resulting open floor plan were executed by builder Frank Payne, who notes exacting attention to detail was needed for elements from an alder cabinet with antique mirrors near the kitchen island to specialty wall finishes such as Venetian plaster. “All of the materials in the unit—the woodwork, doors and cabinetry—were totally new and custom,” says Payne.
Designing an interior unique to each unit was a challenge for Galvin, who spent a week with the family simply observing things like, “How do they do breakfast? What is playtime like? Do they entertain?” says Galvin, who created a “house finish” for each condo. For this family, she selected a palette inspired by the evergreens on the nearby mountainside. “The wife loves green, and the spaces screamed for it,” the designer says, noting the painted kitchen cabinetry. “I wanted to bring the outside in.”
Working within a palette of greens, straw and rich ivories, Galvin found decorative ways to visually delineate the spaces within the condo’s open floor plan. In the dining area, she upholstered the walls with a paisley fabric and designed coffered ceilings inlaid with alder. “The ceiling and the carpets are how I define these spaces,” says Galvin. A Jack-and-Jill bedroom, which can be used by either this unit or an adjoining one, has its entrance at the head of the dining room. Galvin concealed the door with a strategically placed upholstered screen, thereby adding another rich layer to the room.
Coffered ceilings were picked back up in the living room, where they add distinctive detailing and conceal the unit’s mechanical workings. “I hid a lot with woodwork,” says Galvin, who collaborated with interior designer Tracie Schumacher of Studio 80 Interior Architecture and Design on the unit’s interior architecture and fixed finishes. “I think millwork and built-ins are some of the most important elements when designing a space,” says Schumacher, who worked with Galvin on custom white oak moldings throughout the room. “They really set the stage for the furnishings.”
To complement the traditional aesthetic established by the interior architecture, Galvin chose furnishings such as antique French sconces, an English desk and tufted ottomans. To lend a modern touch, the designer incorporated leather side tables with nailhead trim and an area rug with a contemporary herringbone pattern, which she echoed in the fireplace hearth and on the kitchen’s backsplash. She turned to an oak leaf motif, a favorite of the family’s, for the powder room’s wallcovering and again as a carved detail in the limestone fireplace. In the master bedroom, a cheerful grass-cloth wallcovering seems to glow in the strong mountain sunlight.
“It’s a handsome, layered look that’s very cozy and comfortable,” Galvin says of the design, although the success of the project runs much deeper. “This was my client’s legacy,” says Galvin. “It was a great honor to be asked to execute her vision for this gift to her children.”